Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Market Experience

Going to the market in any country is always a favorite experience of mine. I love being able to interact with the local people, practice (and unfortunately slaughter) their language. It’s such a fun experience, and definitely worth remembering if you’ve experienced this in your own travels. At the very least it’s worth reading about on this post if you’ve never experienced a foreign market. Either way, here’s a word picture for the market experience here. I hope it evokes a vivid picture in your mind!

As I step out of the compound and take just a few paces, I am immediately immersed in a completely different world. Spread out along the outskirts of the road are makeshift tables and mats with fresh fruit, vegetables, brooms, shoes, and even used cellphones displayed. “Bonjour, Madam!” They first try French since there is a large population of French expatriates living locally. When I reply with “Manoa ahoana!” they look pleased, yet puzzled and begin speaking in Malagash. I just nod and pass taking in the sights. The vibrant colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables that were most likely picked that day or the day prior are a feast for the eyes. Bright reds (tomatoes, peppers, etc.), vivid greens (beans, leeks, lettuce, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, etc.), and vibrant orange hues (carrots, papaya, pumpkins, persimmons, etc.), fill my view. It’s so unique to see a rainbow of fresh in the midst of the shacks, shanty’s, and roadside stores.
The smells are unforgettable. The fresh scents of garlic and onions hang in the air and since the markets are on the side of the main roads, the thick smell of diesel penetrates everything. There are no emissions tests, so vehicles blow black smoke from their exhaust constantly. I like to imagine that if I stayed there for a few days I would be covered in thick black soot as a result of the heavy smog that fills the streets. Body odor can be smelled at various points along the road, some more pungent than others. Since the markets are packed and the walking room is limited, I brush up against people all the time, making those with BO just a little more noticeable. A strong dead smell wafts through the air alerting me to the fact that a meat market is near. Depending on the age of the meat this smell can vary in intensity. There also is an irresistibly delicious smell of fried food cooking in hot pans as I walk by, but Montezuma lurks in the recesses of my mind threatening to visit if I choose to partake, so I continue on knowing that although tempting, my stomach will likely thank me later.
Clucking chickens and quacking ducks waiting to be sold and later butchered can be heard at various points along the way. Horns honking at pedestrians, cars, and everything else since EVERYthing shares the narrow, barely 2 lane road. Engines revving, people yelling to try and sell their goods, and dynamite exploding in the distance all make up the market “music”.

When I finally stop at a table to purchase something, I am greeted with eager welcoming eyes. I can almost read their thoughts, “What is the foreigner wanting to buy? How much can I mark this up?” I know that I will get foreigner prices, but I figure that is my just reward since I can’t speak their language and make them work hard to communicate with me. I point and ask how much. Even my foreigner price is far below what I would pay for the same thing in the U.S., so I hand over the money knowing they work hard enough to merit the overcharging and I’m still getting a great bargain. They try to convince me to buy a few more things by pointing at various wares on their table and picking out the “best” one. Sometimes I concede, but other times I just put up my hand, take my bag of goods, and walk until I find something else that catches my eye.

In the end, I walk back with my bounty of bargains and a smile on my face knowing that I made some Malagasy people very happy and padded their pockets ever so slightly while bringing back treasures for my family.


  1. That sounds so much fun. It is nice to get good things for a good deal, but nicer yet to really help someone out in the process.

  2. Kristi Lynn, These vivid portraits - both pictorial and verbage - help to draw us tantalizingly close to your incredible journey afar. Thank you for creating these forever glimpses!!!

  3. I think I could easily become a vegetarian with all that fresh fruit/veggies so available just around the corner)....and the visual of the meats hanging kind of puts me off!! LOL!
    Love your descriptions, both in the photos and words!

  4. What an incredible experience. Thanks for giving us an idea of life on our side of the world.